Low literacy levels threaten Canada's economic future

ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation believes the Canadian Council on Learning's Reading the Future offers a clear picture of Canada's low literacy levels. According to Reading the Future, the forecasted number of Canadians with low skills will increase by more than three million to 15 million by 2031.

"The Canadian economy will suffer as the number of Canadians with low literacy skills increases, so we need to prepare workers for shifts in their industry and new technologies," says Margaret Eaton, president of ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation.

ABC CANADA thinks Reading the Future offers feasible recommendations based on the perspective that Canada's economic and social well-being, health and competitiveness are strongly linked to literacy levels. The creation of accessible literacy programs that address the needs of the individuals facing literacy challenges today is key. Reading the Future profiles these Canadians as employed and unaware of the extent of their literacy challenges. It also explains that those with low literacy skills have mastered the mechanics of reading, but lack the ability to deal with complex texts. This means millions of Canadians will not be able to carry out the tasks required in the emerging economy.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that Canadian businesses and governments need to make an investment if the country is to stay competitive," states Eaton. "We know from the report that a large percentage of those with low literacy skills are employed, so the workplace is the ideal venue to address literacy training. This is underscored by the report's strong recommendation for upgrading programs supported by the private and public sector."